Like any maturing tween, the 11-year-old hashtag is undergoing a series of changes. While it used to be in every other word of a tweet, the hashtag has grown to encompass movements and moments in the world (and some even get their own emoji in tweets). In the age of direct-to-consumer startups and social commerce, the hashtag has turned into a marketing tactic brands use to create communities, awareness and dedicated channels to boost their bottom line and acquire new customers.
“Hashtag marketing is a way to scale [word]-of-mouth marketing and activate your community,” said Kyle Wong, CEO and co-founder of Pixlee, a user-generated content marketing company. “These hashtags allow consumers to discover new products or brands easier.”
The hashtag marketing tactics of today are also completely dependent on KPIs that are still developing, and not everyone’s using the right tools, shared Wong. But, Wong said, brands can use existing tools such as measuring the number of posts and “overall potential impressions” to see how brand awareness is working.
“The bottleneck isn’t in the measurement potential, the bottleneck is in the tools,” Wong said.
However, hashtags like #ItsBanana from Banana Republic or #weareallbirds from Allbirds, a shoe company, are zeroing in on brand awareness and engaging with their customers on the platform, versus solely thinking about reach, Web lift or sales. While Wong said that hashtag marketing today could increase revenue and awareness, Amy Goldstein, social media manager, Adobe Creative Cloud, said brands shouldn’t solely be focused on that bottom line.
“Brands need to get out of the way—unilaterally talking to your community doesn’t work anymore,” Goldstein said. “Consumers are expecting a dialogue with the brand. All these touch points are contributing to the customer journey—you have to look at the full customer journey and marketing funnel.”
Kellan Terry, PR data manager at Brandwatch, a social media analytics company, echoed this sentiment: “The best brand campaigns aren’t necessarily trying to tie it back to revenue and profit.”
Here are four examples of brands from Lively to Outdoor Voices, which are investing in this new hashtag marketing era and using it to think differently about their funnel. The data below is based on historical mentions of the following specific hashtags used mostly on Twitter, as compiled by Brandwatch, between July 1 and Aug. 28, 2018. The hashtags were used by 68 percent women and each has at least 90 percent positive consumer sentiment. Other data points were provided from the companies’ internal metrics.
Why These Hashtags Work
It’s a lookbook
The Allbirds team actively looks through the #weareallbirds and #whereareallbirds hashtags to see if there’s another product that could fill a customer’s need—and consumers can see how other people wear it. “It’s become a sort of style and inspiration,” said Julie Channing, vp, marketing, Allbirds. “We don’t have an official lookbook section on our site, but if we did, we could easily pull in content from this hashtag.”
Engagement is the key KPI
Mary Alderete, CMO of Banana Republic, believes how the brand communicates with its customers is vital for its hashtags—and it’s clear that customers want to add content to the company’s story and be a part of the conversation. “Marketing is at its best when your story is told by other people as part of their story,” Alderete said. “What it confirms for me is the idea that we have a community of engaged customers and they want to be part of the dialogue.” And according to Brandwatch, the hashtag #ItsBanana definitely resonates with customers, as it has more than 1.7 million impressions.
Sticking with the hashtag
For Lively, a lingerie brand, the hashtag embodies the brand’s, um, lively, spirit, but also how people use the company’s products. “#livingLIVELY was a creative way for us not being Lively, but using Lively to inspire you,” said Michelle Cordeiro Grant, CEO and founder of Lively. The hashtag tends to spike whenever there’s a new product or offer, and the company has built a brand ambassador program of 40,000 members as a result.
Connecting with a community
For Outdoor Voices, an activewear brand, the hashtag brings together a community of people who not only wear its products but do activities in the gear. On Twitter alone, the hashtag #DoingThings received more than 1.9 million impressions. “[The hashtag is] also a great way for us to listen to our customer insights and see what’s needed from Outdoor Voices that might not currently exist based on where our customers live and the activities they are doing,” said Tyler Haney, CEO and founder of Outdoor Voices.